I won’t go too much into the history of Onix as we’ve already covered this when Jerry reviewed the Onix RA-125 back in July of last year.
The A-25 amplifier was created to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the much loved Onix OA21 and to recall the “old-style” sound of the original Tony Brady project. The amp is a dual-mono integrated affair which will deliver 2 x 30W into 8Ohms ( 5 of which are in Class A) and 2 x 50 W into 4 Ohms and it costs around £775.
It has to be said that the A-25 is a smart looking bit of kit with its half-width elongated shoebox design and glass panelled front. There’s a big gold volume control (Alps Blue Velvet), a source selector button and a power button on the front. It’s sleek, it’s elegant and I really like the look of it, though I’m sure that it will have its detractors who will say it’s a bit blingy – I don’t think it’s at all blingy and just looks understated and classy when parked on the rack.
Round the back you get two pairs of RCA inputs, a pair of balanced XLR inputs and a pair of RCAs for bypass for when you want to use the amp in a surround sound set up. There’s also a pre out section catered for by another pair of RCAs and finally there’s a nice pair of loudspeaker binding posts. Feature-wise it’s well catered for I’d say with enough inputs to satisfy most people. A remote is available though the review sample came without.
We thought that the ideal partnership for the Onix would be the Q Acoustics Concept 20 loudspeakers fed with the computer through the DAC and we felt that this partnership, which comes in at around the £1500 mark using a computer and not taking the reference DAC as the source into account, would be probably where Onix would like to pitch this amp. We’ll also use it for watching a few films I dare say.
First onto the virtual turntable was a healthy dose of disco in the form of Patrick Adams Presents Phreek and here I found that the Onix offered good overall definition and tightness in the bass kick and whilst it doesn’t dredge the very lowest registers it is perfectly acceptable for such a modestly priced amplifier. Comparing with the recently reviewed Tellurium Q Claymore, which excelled in the bass department, the Onix could be seen as lacking a tad, but then the Claymore costs four times as much as the Onix and so we’re comparing apples and oranges. Comparing the Onix to the slightly less expensive Clones Audio i25, bass was somewhat tighter with less flabbiness with the Onix.
On with Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter in America” and its opening tune demonstrating the amps ability to give a really good insight into the recording. Vocals are a strongpoint with the A25, as is the portrayal of all the mid-range frequencies and I reckon this amp will be really popular with those whole love vocal music – I’m sure it will also shine at hifi shows given the kind of music often played at them.
There’s a slight overall warmth (which some will really enjoy) and this leads to a really nice non-fatiguing listening experience – you really can listen to this amp for hours and feel the music as being as fresh at the end of the session as it was at the start. Overall the mids do dominate slightly and, at the relative budget end of the scale of things where this amp sits, this is no bad thing I’d possibly suggest. Piano and acoustic instruments were particularly nicely portrayed I noted, as were hi hats which were sharp and crispy. Again comparing it to the little Clones amp there’s a touch more colouration and warmth to the overall presentation which depending on your preferences you’ll either prefer or not.
Soundstaging is very wide and extends way beyond the speakers left and right and there is good, but not exceptional, portrayal of depth of stereo image. Overall you get a very acceptable, and somewhat enjoyable, insight into the mix and it’s also very stable.
On Rock (Hawkwind’s glorious re-release of Warrior On the Edge of Time) compared to the £6K reference amplifier there is a slight blurring of the overall image but it is still possible to pick out individual instruments from the mix quite easily. An analytical tool the A25 is not, but the soundstaging on this kind of music was highly entertaining. Hihats were again crisp and basslines easy to follow.
The amplifier performs at its best when allowed to breathe a little at medium to high volumes, but at low volumes (to which I rarely listen) you are left with very little bass content and a mid and top heavy sound…so any excuse to turn up the noise I suppose! If you are a late night listener then this amp may not be for you and perhaps here the inclusion of a headphone amplifier for occasional late night sessions would have been useful.
Shifting to electronic music I expected to be under whelmed by the Onix, but popping on Tresor.136 (Annex 3) I found it a very interesting listen indeed. The opening track on the record has a kick that’s easy to mess up, but here it was tight and taut and the sub bass synth was certainly very much in evidence. There’s still that slight warmth to the overall sound, but again I found myself really warming (pun intended) to the Onix. Instead of that cold and analytical, studio type sound you can get with some amps you are offered up a portrayal that allows good insight into the music without there being so much information you end up mentally pulling a track to pieces and losing a degree of enjoyment.
Track two on the Tresor album by Stewart S Walker has an electronic hat sound that really cuts through the mix and this was portrayed superbly by the Onix. There is still that ever so slight blurring of the sound at the very top end compared to the best but for its class I thought the sound was really very acceptable indeed. Dave Tarrida’s “Mouse Catcher General” has a really cool sub bass synth sound that some amps can struggle with, but despite what I’ve said previously about the bass on the Onix it coped really well.
At the asking price I believe that the Onix A25 offers users a very good value product. Its sound is weighty and nicely controlled in the lower registers and despite its moderate quoted output it certainly packs a punch.
With the great value Q Acoustics Concept 20s I certainly got the impression that the two were bringing the very best out in each other and as a relatively inexpensive system this pairing would be very good.
At playing music the Onix does a formidable job and it certainly gets your toes tapping for extended periods. It’s fast, punchy and a good deal of fun and whilst it may not have the very last degree of finesse at the frequency extremes as our (£10K) pre and power partnership, it certainly does a great job at conveying what it is fed with in a coherent and (I can’t stress this enough) fun way. The Onix lacks a little of the Clones overall finesse too, but what it misses out on here here it makes up for in spades with clout and foot tapping enjoyment. Bass isn’t always the last word with the Onix in absolute depth but what is there is tight and taut, whereas the Clones can sound slightly flabby and uncontrolled in this area.
Overall the sound of the Onix A25 is very enjoyable indeed with a balanced musicality erring in favour of the midrange especially..
Soundstaging is wide (very wide for an amp at this price) but when compared to the best it lacks that 3D thing a little and here it’s on a par with the Clones if not actually slightly better.
It does well with all the genres you can throw at it without having to make too many compromises along the way and after extended listening I really got to like the overall balance of the sound. I particularly enjoyed its punchiness!
In the sub £1000 price range there’s a lot of choice in amps to be had but I’d strongly suggest that the Onix should be on your short list of amps to audition with your kit. It performs well, is well specified and looks fabulous.
As an after-word, we had a pair of speakers that came in for audition and it was clear that they needed a kick up their backside to get them singing and of the five amps we had to hand the Onix, despite being one of the least expensive, gave us the best results.
Build Quality – 8/10
Sound Quality – 7.5/10
Value for money – 8.5/10
Overall – 8/10
Price when reviewed – £775
Recommended for listeners looking for a relatively inexpensive amplifier with good looks, good features and a non fatiguing sound profile that is fun to listen to with a wide range of musical styles.
Author – Stuart Smith